Beginning tonight, Darleen Randall from Dine by Design is offering cooking classes to the Gainesville community. She didn't attend a prestigious culinary school, but who cares? Darleen completed some basic courses, and she has hands-on experience running her own catering company. With all that, I think the lady knows what she's doing.

From 6 p.m to 8 p.m. tonight students will learn how to make the "Five Mother Sauces" that are a base to any good French dish.  The class is completely full, but here are the details of some upcoming classes that are sure to make your mouth water. I definitely think I'm going to sign up for the Valentine's Day couples cooking-- even if I don't have a valentine that food just sounds too good to miss!

February 11: Basic Knife Skills $35
A basic understanding of classic knife cuts including slicing, dicing, julienne, and chiffonade, and knife care.

February 12: Valentine's Friday Date Night
$60 per couple
The menu for our traditional Romantic Valentine's Day Cooking Class:

~ Mango Chopped Salad
~ Honey-peppered Salmon over a bed of Strawberry Pasta
~ Lemon Asparagus
~ Chocolate Lava Cakes with Coffee Ice Cream

An appetizer will be prepared in advance for the guests to enjoy before dinner is prepared. Students will sit at linen-covered tables, and use china and crystal. Feel free to bring a bottle of wine.

February 13: Valentine's Saturday Date Night
$60 per couple
The menu for this non-traditional Valentine's Day menu has not yet been finalized but it will be a delicious evening of Asian Cuisine.

For more information on Dine by Design visit their Web site
Check out my article in The Gainesville Sun about yesterday's event at Eastside High School here.
I love my job. I get to cover some of the coolest stuff and see what is going on in the Gainesville community. Today, I attended a tasting at Eastside High School’s Institute of Culinary Arts, and I was totally blown away. Those kids can cook!

Starting at about 8:30 this morning about 15 culinary students started dicing, whisking and sauteing fresh ingredients from The Academy of Environmental Engineering at Loften High School. When I walked into the industrial kitchen at 9:30 the whole place was a buzz, almost like it had its own pulse.

The purpose of the tasting was to bring the two magnet programs together to teach them about things like marketing and locally grown foods. In seeing the process from beginning to end, the students received a better understanding of how their skills work in the real world.
Chef Billie DeNunzio, the institute's director, chose interesting and creative recipes even she had never tried:
Braised Kale with Pancetta and Caramelized Onions
Roasted Beet Salad with Oranges and Beet Greens
Braised Turnip Greens with Turnips and Apples
Kohlrabi and Apple Salad with Creamy Mustard Dressing
Potato Stuffed Cabbage Leaf Cage Bundles
Daikon, Carrot, and Broccoli Slaw
Cabbage Slaw
Roasted Curried Cauliflower
Pasta and Cauliflower Soup

I observed as all of the kids bustled about, each of them feeling completly at ease in the kitchen. Chef DeNunzio floated around giving advice and watched her students come to life.

At 11:30 when I returned, the Loften students were busy cleaning dishes and helping out. When all the students finally got to sit down around 11:45 the room was all smiles. Many of the students went back for seconds.

My favorite were the Potato Stuffed Cabbage Leaf Cage Bundles. The browing of the potatoes on top add a nice crunch that complemented the crispness of the cabbage.
Some of Eastside High's yummy food.
Tonight I FINALLY watched Julie & Julia. The movie is about how cookbook writer Julia Child got her start, and how blogger Julie Powell challenged herself to cook more than 400 of Julia's recipes in a year. The story itself is heartwarming and relatable, but I found myself relating even more than I thought I would.

Toward the beginning of the movie Julie makes a profound point that I believe will continue to resonate with me for as long as I live. She says the reason she loves cooking is that no matter how awful her day is, or what happens she will always know that if she mixes these specific ingredients together it will always turn out this one way.

No matter what I do, if I mix egg yolks, condensed milk and key lime juice I'm going to end up making a Key Lime Pie. It's that simple.

I had never thought of it this way. Being a complete control freak, I love cooking because of the amount of control it rewards me. It is entirely up to me whether or not the dish turns out okay, and I am the one making a masterpiece out of nothing. Wow, and I just thought I liked to eat.

It was extremely interesting to see Julie's ups and downs as a blogger. Being new to the blogosphere myself I know I'm not going to gain success overnight, but of course I do secretly hope I'm going to change the world.

Earlier today my grandmother sent me the sweetest e-mail about my horoscope for today. I'm not sure if it has come to fruition, but I wanted to share it with you all anyway. My horoscope said:

"Diary pages have magic in them. Write about what you are looking for and what you would like to experience. In 15 minutes of writing, you can alter the course of your life."

All I can say is thanks Gran, and I sure hope that it does.
Red Dragon Roll from Bento Cafe
Three years ago if you had given me sushi I would have spit it out. I literally did once during dinner with some friends my senior year of high school. To my credit, it was a terrible California Roll. Why people call them the "safest" roll to try I don't know. Maybe if it had been slathered with soy sauce and some tuna it would have tasted better.

Fast forward a few years later and I can't get enough of the stuff. Tempura fried, filled with cream cheese, topped with mosago... you name and I will try it. My favorite place, however, is Bento Cafe on Archer Road in Gainesville. They have quick, casual pan-asian cuisine and sushi, according to the cafe's site.

To start, the decor is chic and hip without being overly trendy. Accents of red and stainless steel highlight the cafe, while large television sets let you watch anything from anime to the latest basketball game. Sometimes the line can get a little backed up if you decide to go right in the thick of meal times, but the staff is pretty good at moving things along.

If you like crunchy with a kick of spice then the Red Dragon Roll is for you. Mixed inside is shrimp tempura, crab, cream cheese, masago and avocado. The roll is topped with tuna and decorated with spicy sauce. The cream cheese melts in your mouth, while the texture of the tempura gives you a light unexpected crunch.

If sushi isn't exactly your thing, they do have Bento Boxes and rice bowls that will satisfy any craving. Or try the
Katsu Chicken Rice Bowl with chicken deep-fried in Japanese panko breading served with a tangy Tonkatsu sauce.

Stop in for weekly specials and new rolls. Bento Cafe also boasts a wide variety of Japanese teas like boba, green, red and thai.

*TIP* to beat the lines during meal times call ahead and pick-up your order.
Last night there was a cupcake disaster in my kitchen of epic proportions.

I guess I should start this story by explaining that normally I tout myself as a cupcake making expert. My apartment should just be called a bakery. I bake when I'm stressed out, when I'm procrastinating or when I'm craving chocolate. Basically, I bake all the time. My personal favorites to make are Funfetti cupcakes with strawberry whipped icing, or red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing.
*TIP* substitute milk for water in any cake recipe to make it more moist

So, being the pastry chef that I am (or thought I was) I got really excited when my mom bought me a large cupcake shaped cake mold for Christmas. The directions were fairly straightforward, telling the user to pour one box of cake mix evenly between the two portions.

Well, I guess I didn't measure too well because the top was definitely smaller than the bottom. That should be an easy fix with lots of icing to cover it up, right? Wrong. Instead of making my small fudge-up look like a masterpiece, I ended up turning the entire thing into one giant blob that slightly resembles male genitalia.

It still tasted delicious, but next time I think I will measure more carefully.
This isn't the exact cupcake mold I used, but it's similar. This one is made by Wilton.
My chocolate cupcake disaster. Photo courtesy of Jake Martin.
Last month I got to review Reggae Shack Cafe for INsite magazine. Check out what I thought:
I can’t believe it’s 2010. I’ve been graduated from Key West High School for exactly three years. Where has the time gone? Since my sophomore year of high school I’ve known I wanted to be a journalist. Last semester I decided to pursue food journalism and I will never turn back.

Over the break I took lots of great photos of all of the food I ate.

My favorite was one I took of the 89 cent nachos from Taco Bell. They give you a heaping of chips covered in a cheese substance and soggy beans, no wonder Americans are fat.

Another interesting concoction: Guacamole Pringle breaded barjack fish. No, I didn’t think it tasted all that great. Yes, it looked like a large pile of cannibus.

I would have posted these much sooner, but my cell phone has been sitting in a Tupperware of rice for four days. I am terribly clumsy with cell phones. I don’t try to be, really. Inevitably, however, they always find water.
Blackberry #4 wanted to go out to sea and down the toilet. Instead of calling insurance and getting a new phone right away I decided to do an old remedy I heard from a friend. Lo and behold after submerging my cell phone in rice for four days every single button works and I still have all of my pictures and contacts.

Last but not least, I have some good news. I am one of the new food critics for Chompmenus.com. I will be blogging under the name GourmetGal. Look out for blogs on both sites, and of course lots of interesting photos and dishes to delight your senses.
Guacamole Pringle breaded Barjack fish
89 cent nachos from Taco Bell
Escargot from Bistro 1425
Roma Tomato Pasta from Bistro 1425
After stuffing myself silly at my grandmother’s house on Thanksgiving, mom and I decided we’d get on the road to Gainesville. Eight hours, three stops and one diet soda later we made it to Titletown at 4:30 a.m. Whenever my mother comes to Gainesville I try to take her to a new restaurant that she’s never experienced. She’s the office manager for a Great Events Catering in Key West and is the reason I became a foodie.

Her first night in town we decided to go to Bistro 1245, a cute little pasta place with a great wine selection. The restaurant is small and cozy, and you can see right into the open kitchen. We snuggled into our table by the window with glasses of wine and relaxed to the sweet sounds of mellow jazz. My mom is a big fan of escargot, so naturally that is what we ordered first.

The escargot was delicious in its creamy garlic sauce, and it was even better paired with the lightly toasted flatbread for a satisfying crunch. I was so smitten with the food I completely forgot to take a picture until halfway through the course.

I’m a big sucker for pasta’s with light sauces and lots of ingredients. The Roma Tomato Pasta certainly didn’t dissapoint. The dish consisted of linguini noodles in a light olive oil, large chunks of roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and spinach. The citrusy tang of the tomatos mixed with the mozzarella was reminiscent of tomato caprice, another one of my favorite dishes.

My mother has been watching what she eats recently, but it doesn’t stop her from enjoying her meal when she orders out. Any meal at Bistro 1245 can be deconstructed and reworked to fit your dieting needs. Mom ordered the duck sandwich with a mixed green salad and chose to forgo the breading and mix the duck into her salad with feta cheese instead.

The next night, however, neither of us was counting calories. After the Gators whooped up on the Seminoles during Tebow’s last game, mom and I decided to head to Emiliano’s one of my favorite family owned restaurants in Gainesville. The restaurant specializes in Tapas and we made sure to order plenty.

The Picadillo Empanadas were melt-in-your-mouth good. The savory flavor of the ground beef with Latin seasonings inside made the flaky outside pastry taste even better. Mom stayed away from the fried yuca frita with garlicky mojito, but I couldn’t get enough. I wasn’t a huge fan of the crab stuffed portobello, a baked portobello mushroom cap with crabmeat stuffing, topped with queso blanco and served over a calabaza-jalapeño cream sauce. The crab was a bit fishy and there were too many flavors mixed together, it tasted too jumbled. The artichokes were extremely light and creamy, and easy to pop in your mouth. The last thing we tried was one of Emiliano’s signature tapas dishes, the Churrasco, or Argentinian Flank Steak. By itself the meat was juicy and tender, and mixed with a chimichurri sauce on top the flavor was even more intense.

For more about Emiliano’s, read my restaurant review in INsite magazine here.
Our spread at Emiliano's
In honor of the time old tradition of stuffing our faces and filling our bellies until the buttons on our pants pop off, I wanted to pass along one of my favorite holiday recipes. This is a family Chicken Enchilada Dip recipe from my Aunt Kimmy and even the most inexperienced chef can pull it off. I made this dip for a Thanksgiving potluck and won best dish!

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Shred a whole chicken (I recommend just getting one of the pre-made ones from Publix.)
Add 8 oz of shredded cheese
1 cup mayo
8 oz of cream cheese
4 oz of chiles
and a few jalapenos depending on your taste.

Mix it all together and put it in the oven for 40 minutes! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

To make everything less calories substitute low fat, or reduced fat mayo, shredded and cream cheeses.

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